GREENBELT – A Maryland man described as the “archetype of a slumlord” has become the first person sentenced in connection with a federal law requiring landlords to notify tenants of hazardous lead paint in their apartments.
David D. Nuyen, 65, was fined $50,000 and sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Deborah Chasanow to two years in prison and three years of supervised release, after pleading guilty to several counts of obstructing justice.
Court documents said he made false statements to a grand jury and investigators and tried to get tenants to lie in an effort to cover up the lead- paint disclosure violations.
The Silver Spring resident was also sentenced to a concurrent one-year prison term for violations of the Lead Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 at several of his rental properties in Washington, D.C.
The act requires that landlords of pre-1978 buildings warn tenants about hazards associated with lead-based paints before they sign a lease. The landlord must also provide information on how to minimize the dangers to children.
But Nuyen, whose business is based in Hyattsville, did not do either, even though he was aware of the requirement from classed he took in Maryland for his real estate license. D.C. housing inspectors had also notified Nuyen that an apartment of his had “dangerous” levels of lead.
In 1998, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development started an investigation of Nuyen after his name appeared on District government lists of landlords with the most housing code violations and with multiple cases of lead- poisoned tenant children.
When he met with investigators in November 1998, Nuyen presented lead paint disclosure forms supposedly signed by his tenants. He later conceded, however, that he had tenants sign the forms after the HUD investigation began, then backdated their signatures. Nuyen also admitted some of his property managers signed the forms themselves.
But at a 1999 meeting with HUD and Justice Department officials over a lawsuit for lead-paint violations in his D.C. properties, Nuyen still maintained that he had been in compliance with the lead disclosure requirement since 1996.
In 2000, when special agents from HUD, the Environmental Protection Agency and the FBI searched his Hyattsville office, Nuyen again said he had complied with the law since it took effect in 1996.
That same year, Nuyen lied to a Greenbelt grand jury on two occasions. He claimed he backdated the forms because his property managers failed to have the tenants sign the form before they moved in. During one of the proceedings he called the act “trivial.”
Nuyen’s case was heard in Maryland because it was at his Hyattsville business headquarters that he presented the falsified documents to federal officials. It was there that he also failed to disclose on a HUD loan application that he was under investigation.
Federal prosecutors in Baltimore said Nuyen previously owned rental properties in Takoma Park, but that no violations were found for those buildings. They said the only other rental property he owns in Maryland is a home in Potomac, which he has been forced to sell as part of a separate suit.
At sentencing Wednesday, Nuyen said he had made mistakes “and I very deeply regret it. I accept any sentence the court would hand out.” He left the federal courthouse in Greenbelt without comment Wednesday. Lawyers for both sides also declined comment.
-30- CNS 03-13-02